Mystery of museum artefacts uncovered

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Te Hikoi Museum and Visitor Information Centre operations manager Karyn Owen shows some of the mystery objects on display at the museum.

MYSTERY items at Riverton’s Te Hikoi Museum are slowly being identified, thanks to its temporary exhibition History Mystery.

Operations manager Karyn Owen said the museum was “engaging with a wider audience online through its temporary exhibition” with about 20 of the 44 items already identified.

Every day of last month and continuing until the middle of July, a mystery artefact from the collection was featured on the museum’s Facebook page.

At least “30 items are currently on the website, and we will be putting more items on soon”, Ms Owen said.

The artefacts were also on display in the museum in a temporary exhibition at the rear of the building.

Some of the questions about the artefacts included: what was it?; why was it in the museum? and was there a story about the item which connected it to Riverton/Aparima?.

“As a small museum we are dependent on volunteer help access to experts and employed historians like larger museums do,” she said.

However, “we have numerous artefacts that have very little, if any, information about them.

“We thought that by sharing them online, and in a temporary exhibition, we might be able to gather more information.”

And it seems to be succeeding.

Some of the highlights so far had been a diverse range of “enlightening comments” including identifying a Riverton car aerial pennant, from the 1960s-70s, which Ms Owen described as “a sort of bloke’s version of collecting souvenir teaspoons while on holiday”; a coin sorter used in banks 50 years ago, and some Marseilles roof tiles – one made of clear glass and the other of clay.

Ms Owen said the roof tiles had been imported in the early 1900s and may have come from the old Riverton library, the Coronation Athenaeum, which was formerly on the site of the Oraka Aparima Runaka office.

“It’s really important that we capture not only what an artefact is, but what was the story connecting it to our area been pretty significant that someone thought it was worth donating to the museum.”

As for the coin sorter, Ms Owen said someone had “commented they specifically remembered the coin sorter being used at the famous annual summer carnival that was a big part of Riverton’s history”.

An enlightening, yet humorous item was a felt hat, which looked old and had been included in the exhibition. It was revealed to be modern once someone looked inside and noticed a website listed on the manufacturer’s label.

“It must have been left by a visitor and eventually ended up in the collection,” Ms Owen said.

Volunteers needed
The other motivation for the exhibition was Te Hikoi was in need of more volunteers to help with collating and sharing stories about its collection, Ms Owen said.

“We thought this was possibly a way to see who out there had knowledge and skills that could be of use here in the museum.

“We’ve all learnt recently how much work can be done remotely, and that is also the case with us.

“There are many ways that people further afield can undertake volunteer work for our special museum they live in another part of the world.”

  • The exhibition continues until the end of July and could be followed online through Te Hikoi’s Facebook page Te Hikoi Southern Journey or by visiting the museum in Riverton.
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